A few weeks ago I was chatting away with my good friend Richard Wagner (aka Dr Dick) about life, the universe, and everything, when we began to discuss the promotion of his latest book- The Amateur’s Guide To Death and Dying; Enhancing the End of Life, and the conflict that occurs when his Dr Dick persona is revealed…
This is not the usual sort of book I feature on my site- but as you’ll see from the post below- we discussed an issue that is very relevant indeed to so many people… It frustrates me greatly that because Richard instructs about a healthy sexual life and personal wellbeing, obstacles are thrown in his way!
I’ll hand over to Richard now- this is fascinating stuff…
Thank you for inviting me to do this guest posting today.
As I was telling Kay during our Skype call the other day, I’ve been running into some difficulties as I try to promote my new book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death and Dying; Enhancing the End of Life. The death and dying professionals I approach with the good news of its recent publication are initially delighted to hear from me. Several big names in the field have congratulated me on my success and even suggested we collaborate.
Then the most curious thing happens.
When I write back, I always tell them about my other online personality, Dr Dick of http://www.drdicksexadvice.com/. And that’s where the communication ends.
Those same death and dying professionals, the ones who at first were so enthusiastic about my new book, stop responding to email. The first few times this happened, I just chalked it up to them being busy. But then I began to see a pattern. It’s clear to me now that these people are uncomfortable with sex, sexuality and intimacy concerns, particularly as they applies to the lives of sick, elder and dying people.
Of course, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me, but it is disconcerting.
So, maybe this would be a good place for me to tell your audience a little more about my book and why I wrote it.
The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying is specifically designed for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder, and dying people from all walks of life. But concerned family and friends, healing and helping professionals, lawyers, clergy, teachers, students, and those grieving a death will also benefit from reading the book.
The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying is a workbook that offers readers a unique group/seminar format. Readers participate in a virtual on-the-page support group consisting of ten other participants. Together members of the group help each other liberate themselves from the emotional, cultural, and practical problems that accompany dying in our modern age.
The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying helps readers dispel the myth that they are incapable of taking charge during the final season of life. Readers face the prospect of life’s end within a framework of honesty, activity, alliance, support, and humor. And most importantly readers learn these lessons in the art of dying and living from the best possible teachers, other sick, elder, and dying people.
The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying engages readers with a multitude of life situations and moral dilemmas that arise as they and their group partners face their mortality head on.
The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying offers readers a way to share coping strategies, participate in meaningful dialogue, and take advantage of professional information tailored to their specific needs. Topics include spirituality, sexuality and intimacy, legal concerns, final stages, and assisted dying. The book does not take an advocacy position on any of these topics. It does, however, advocate for the holistic self-determination of sick, elder, and dying people, which can only be achieved when they have adequate information.
Facing your mortality with the kind of support The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying offers does not eliminate the pain and poignancy of separation. Rather it involves confidently facing these things and living through them to the end.
Of special interest to Kay’s audience perhaps, and also my favorite, is Chapter 6 of my book, titled, Don’t Stop. I collaborated with my dear friend, the internationally known sex educator and therapist, Dr. Cheryl Cohen Greene (http://www.drdicksexadvice.com/2012/03/28/podcast-326/ ) on this chapter about sexuality and intimacy.
We begin by posing 5 simple questions to help our readers focus their attention on their sexuality and intimacy needs.
1. How important is sexuality in your life?
2. Is there’s a difference between sexuality and intimacy?
3. Do you have a range of options in which to experience your sexuality? If yes, what are some of them?
4. How well are you able to communicate your needs for sex and/or intimacy to your partner(s)? Are there any specific issues that get in the way of asking for what you need?
5. What are your biggest concerns about your sexuality as it relates to your disease, aging and/or dying process?
Cheryl sums up the reason for incorporating this chapter in the book.
“Sexuality and intimacy are important topics for us to consider, because there is so little information out there about these things for elders and those of us who have life-threatening conditions. The assumption, I suppose, is that sick, aging and dying people don’t have sexual and intimacy concerns, so why even bring it up?
That ridiculous assumption is so prevalent, even among healing and helping professions, that I’m forever having to confront it with, ‘Hey, we’re not dead yet.’”
Cheryl goes on share her particular situation, which begins the group process that follows.
“Let me tell you a little about what I experienced when I was being treated for cancer. To be blunt, the cancer and subsequent chemotherapy destroyed my sex life. The thought of being touched in an intimate way made me very uncomfortable. I wasn’t even able to have an orgasm. My life was shattered and I couldn’t find anyone to help me piece it together again. I was on my own.
I had to learn to cope with the dramatic changes in my body, changes that not only interfered with my personal sexual life, but also effectively halted my professional life as a surrogate partner. Finding a way through this mess wasn’t gonna be easy because I had my partner’s feelings to deal with as well as my own. I couldn’t very well put him on hold indefinitely.
In the beginning the hardest part was the communication with my partner. I had to learn an effective way to talk to him under these very trying circumstances. The bottom had fallen out of our sex life and neither one of us knew how to deal with that.
It wasn’t just that I was feeling tired and sick all the time; I was having no sexual feelings at all. But I was also painfully aware of his desire to connect with me. He was so afraid that I was going to die and yet he didn’t know how to be close to me anymore. It was a stressful time for both of us.”
Cheryl and I break open this terribly important discussion and we do so with a refreshing frankness that is completely unprecedented in books on this topic. We not only address the pressing concerns of the group members — body image, hormone replacement therapy, masturbation, reconnecting with a partner, arousal dysfunction etc., we also give them practical suggestions on how to handle their concerns — effective communication techniques, sensate focus and guided-hand sensual touch exercises, etc.
One pressing concern for many is privacy.
People who live in an institutional setting like an extended care facility, hospital or hospice, may have a problem securing enough privacy for their intimate and sexual moments. Even though you have a right to your privacy, you may find that you must be very proactive in securing this right for yourself. Many of the attending staff in these settings are sensitized to a patient’s privacy needs, but the patient may still have to ask for what he/she needs.
Cheryl and I invite our readers to begin to explore what is possible now in your sex life. We suggest that they avoid comparing what they are able to do now with how it once was. We advise that they keep their exploration simple and open-ended. Don’t create a goal to be achieved. And most of all we suggest that they keep it playful while honoring their limits.
Here’s my philosophy; I insist that we are all entitled to intimacy and pleasure in our lives, regardless of how our body looks or at what stage of life we are at. The fact that we might be sick, elder, or dying need not cut us off from these precious life-enhancing things. We need to take the lead in defining what it is that we need, and then communicate that to those we love. We ought to have confidence that this will be as enriching for them as it will be for us.
Thank you, Kay for this opportunity to share this with you and your audience.
You are more than welcome Richard. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this post for us today on a subject that is so vital to so many.
I totally agree with your point about privacy- often one of the first sacrifices of illness.
It annoys me beyond measure that so many intelligent professionals back out of promoting anything- from a book to an idea- simply because its originator has connections with the world of erotica in whatever form.
If you’d like to buy this incredible volume, then here’s a direct link you can use: http://tinyurl.com/bs3vsf2
Huge thanks to Richard for sharing his thoughts and book with us today.